Offshore is Onshore: Scalability, Synchronization, and Speed of Decision in Arctic SAR

Rasmus Dahlberg*, Morten Thanning Vendelø, Birgitte Refslund Sørensen, Kristian Cedervall Lauta

*Corresponding author for this work

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With its massive size, small population, and extreme climate, the Arctic is a highly relevant case for studying Search and Rescue (SAR) in remote and challenging environments. Climate change leads to increased shipping, tourism, and oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, creating new risks that need to be mitigated. The three major challenges to Arctic SAR are: (i) limited SAR capa-bilities, (ii) a multi-jurisdictional context with multiple Danish/Greenlandic and civilian/military authorities involved, and (iii) the need for coordination of a diverse set of organizational units operating both onshore and offshore. We use the case of a large-scale SAR exercise, LIVEX 2016, held off the west coast of Greenland, to explore these challenges from a three-tier analytical approach: Scalability, which investigates surge capacity in crisis management, Synchronization, which focuses on challenges related to the creation and maintenance of a situational picture during a SAR operation, and Speed of decision, which looks at how complex matters are managed in a multi-jurisdictional context under time pressure. Our findings show: (i) that surge capacity requires more focus on integration than activation, (ii), that actors must question information and challenge their own interpretations to maintain a synchronized situational awareness, and (iii) that urgency may result in a decrease of speed in decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Military Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)157-168
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Artic
  • Coordination
  • Distributed sensemaking
  • Emergency management
  • Search and rescue

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